Unique Ways to Find a Job

Standing out in a competitive job market is not easy.  Sometimes you need to do something a little unconventional to get noticed.  However, these types of stunts can backfire if you don’t do them properly.  You want to stand out for the right reasons and make sure that it doesn’t pull the focus away from your skills. Here are some tactics you can try that will definitely set you apart from the herd:


Social Media Campaign.  Social media offers today’s job seeker endless opportunities to connect with potential employers.  You could make contact through the company page, position yourself as a subject matter expert, participate in discussion groups, take out a Facebook advertisement, start a blog, or directly contact employers.  The key is to ensure that your approach is appropriate and professional and that it effectively demonstrates that you would be a great fit for the job.

Video Resume.  A video resume is a short video that demonstrates why you are the best candidate for the job.  You can include clips of your work, an elevator pitch, testimonials or anything else that you think an employer might find intriguing.  Just keep it short, interesting, and focused on your target position.
Unconventional Resume.  While this approach is controversial, some job seekers have found it to be effective.  Unconventional resumes are generally only appropriate when the job requires some creativity.  The form that your resume takes is completely up to you, but always stay focused on demonstrating how your skills relate to the role.
Personal Connection.  Since everyone is so focused on online applications and social media, you can stand out by making personal connections.  Attend community events, professional association events, and any other gatherings where you can meet key decision makers.  Don’t be afraid to approach them and introduce yourself.  If you have an excellent elevator pitch prepared, you will definitely make an impression.
When the usual approaches aren’t working, it makes sense to look outside the box.  The type of strategy that you choose will completely depend on you.  Don’t be afraid to be bold.  If you keep it professional and relevant to your target job, you can’t go wrong.  Good luck!
(Written by: Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of: Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

No Experience = No Job?

No experience = no job.  No job = no experience!  How can a frustrated job seeker ever escape this cycle?  It makes you feel like the system is rigged against you.  There are ways to overcome this barrier, but you have to be smart about it.  Here are some tips that will help you get your first job even without experience:


Get your foot in the door.   Once you get into an organization, it is a lot easier to get the employer to take a chance on you.  Even without the required experience, if the employer sees that you are a hard worker and that you have a good attitude, they might be willing to teach you what you need to know.  The key is to be willing to accept any position that will get you into the organization and to exceed the employer’s expectations of you.

Show enthusiasm.  Often employers are more interested in hiring a candidate with the right attitude than they are in hiring one with lots of experience.  Use your cover letter to show your enthusiasm for the position.  Allow your personality to shine through.  You can even phone them to follow up on your application; just make sure that you are confident and positive when talking to the employer.

Identify transferable skills.  Even if you don’t have any paid work experience, you do have skills.  Consider your volunteer experience, extracurricular activities, hobbies, and courses you have taken.  What knowledge and skills have you gained from these experiences?  The employer doesn’t really care where you got the experience; they just want to find a candidate who will do a good job.

Use your network.  One of the advantages of networking is that it is an effective way to overcome any employment barriers that you may be facing.  For example, even if you are lacking experience, when an employee at the company recommends you to the manager, your chances of getting hired skyrockets.  As you develop your network, you will find that more doors open for you.

Getting a job without experience is not easy, but it is certainly not impossible.  However, now that you have identified this barrier, you need to work on fixing it.  Start volunteering or get a part time job.  As you get more experience, your career will grow.  Take the first step today.

(Written by: Karen Bivand)

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Why You Should Give Job Fairs Another Chance

Many job seekers believe that online applications have rendered job fairs obsolete.  They’re wrong.  Job fairs are an excellent opportunity to network, do research, and connect with potential employers.  Since most job seekers have given up on job fairs, you face less competition there than you would on an online job site.  The key is to conduct yourself professionally, to be strategic, and not to expect too much.  Here are some of the ways that job fairs can be a valuable tool in your job search strategy:


Make an impression in person.  Job fairs provide the rare opportunity to make a personal connection with employers, which can put you miles ahead of your competition.  Dress to impress and do some research on the companies that will be attending.  With a little preparation, it is easy to stand out from the crowd.

Get valuable information.  When you’re connecting with people, you never know when you’ll get a useful piece of information.  You could get a valuable tip about the online application at a particular company, or you may even learn about a job lead.  Keep your eyes and ears open and an opportunity might find you.

Discover new possibilities.  When you look for a job online, you are basically just searching for stuff you know.  You look at your target companies and search for your target positions.  But what about all the opportunities that you’ve never considered?  Job fairs expose you to new possibilities and allow you to expand your horizons.  You just need to keep an open mind and be willing to try something new.

Meet other job seekers.  We’ve all heard about the value of networking, but many of us fall into the trap of assuming that we should just network with employers.  However, the truth is that a connection with another job seeker can be just as or even more valuable.  Other job seekers can tell you about job leads, connect you to their network, and support you through the ups and downs of the job search process.  Nobody can understand the challenges you are facing as much as someone who’s going through it too.

Like so many other things in life, job fairs are what you make it.  If you take the time to prepare, dress professionally and work hard to build connections, you can get valuable leads.  The savvy job seeker knows that no job search tool is obsolete; you just have to figure out how to use it strategically.

(Written by: Karen Bivand)

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5 Things to Look for Before You Hit Send

You would be surprised at how many applications are discarded because of silly mistakes.  When you have errors on your resume and cover letter it makes you look sloppy and it gives the employer doubts about your quality of work.  Here is a checklist that you should complete each time you submit an application.  If your resume and cover letter pass this test, then you’re ready to apply:

Spelling and grammar.  Spelling and grammatical errors look terrible on a resume and since it’s so easy to run a spell check, there’s really no excuse for them.  Even if you’ve proofread it yourself and you’re an amazing speller, run the check!

Employer specific.  It is important that you customize your resume and cover letter to the specific employer for the specific position.  You want to show them that your skills and experience will allow you to meet their needs and that you are a good fit for both the job and the organization.  Most importantly, if you are re-purposing your resume and cover letter, you need to remove any previous customization so you’re not submitting an application with another employer’s name on it.

Up to date.  The easiest way to keep your resume current is to update it as you gain new skills and experience.  Before sending your resume, take a quick look at your most recent position to ensure that everything is still accurate.  In particular, make sure that you add in any new certifications and skills that you may have attained and that you don’t have ‘present’ listed for a position that you have already left.

Overall appearance.  Once you are done proofreading the content, take a quick look at the appearance and layout of your resume.  Are your headings and formatting consistent?  Is it attractive and professionally laid out?  Since you only have a few seconds to catch the employer’s attention, appearance counts!

When you’ve spent too much time looking at a document, it becomes more difficult for you to identify problems within it.  You may find yourself overlooking glaring errors that you definitely should have caught.  For this reason, it’s a good idea to have someone else look at your resume and cover letter.  You want to be judged based on how qualified you are for the position, not on a silly spelling mistake.

(Written by: Karen Bivand)

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When Money is Not Enough

When selecting a job to target, many job seekers fall into the trap of becoming too focused on salary.  Try not to do this.  When you put too much of an emphasis on salary, you run the risk of overlooking other rewards that may be equally, or even more important to you.  Here are some other factors to consider when choosing which jobs to target.

Extended health, dental and vision benefits:  These plans can be pricey when you need to purchase them on your own.  Research how much they would cost and you can calculate exactly how much a benefits plan is adding to your salary.

Learning Opportunities:  Training opportunities can help you broaden your knowledge base, and can also strengthen your profile.

Networking Opportunities:  Some positions give you ample opportunity to make contacts with other professionals in your field.  These connections can be valuable to you in the future.

Vacation/Personal Days:  Some organizations provide their employees with additional days off.  If you value a work/life balance, this benefit could be important to you.

Opportunities for Advancement:  Sometimes it is beneficial to consider accepting a lower level position at a company with the hope of advancing to a higher position at a later date.  This could be a good strategy if it is a company with a strong reputation and significant upward mobility.  Most companies prefer promoting from within over hiring an external candidate.

Flexibility:  Some companies are more flexible with their employees than others.  This flexibility could mean that you have a choice over the hours that you work, or that you are able to work from home.  Depending on your lifestyle, having a flexible employer may be important to you.

Corporate Culture:  What are the values of the organization?  Do they value creativity and innovation or do they value social responsibility?  Finding an organization whose corporate culture is synonomous with your own values will allow you to work in an environment that is more comfortable and fulfilling for you.

Location:  From the outset, you may feel that location is not important to you, but you will likely feel differently after a few days of commuting.  Take into account how long and how difficult the commute will be.  Many people have a daily commute of three to four hours, but consider how it will impact your quality of life before making that type of committment.

Other Perks:  Many organizations offer different types of perks that may be attractive to you.  These perks could include benefits such as: free or subsidized lunches, access to a gym, TTC passes, or discounts.

Fulfillment:  Some jobs will provide you with intrinsic rewards.  It may give you the opportunity to create something new, or you could have the satisfaction of knowing that your work is helping somebody.  Sometimes the feeling of serving a higher purpose outweighs all other rewards.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo From: dream designs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Making Today’s Job Numbers Work for You

Last week, it was announced that the unemployment rate is back to pre-recession levels.  In April, 58,300 new jobs were created.  This is great news, but how can you (the savvy job seeker) make this employment report work for you?

1.  Consider several part-time positions.  Most of the new jobs in April were part-time.  You may consider piecing together two part-time psotions rather than holding out for one full-time job.

2.  Look into the service sector.  The majority of the new positions were in the service sector (in particular- finance, insurance, and real estate).  Take a close look at these industries and see if they have any positions that would fit with your skills and experience.

3.  Look in Ontario.  Over the past few years, different provinces have been hotspots for jobs.  Now it’s Ontario’s turn.  Most of the new postions were located in Ontario.

4.  Take heart.  The tide is finally turning and opportunities are opening up.  If you have been reluctant to jump into the job market because of the recession, get ready.  The storm is over.  It’s time to get out there and grab that job.

When looking for a job, keep your eyes open.  By paying attention to the employment numbers, you can be sure that your job search strategy makes sense within the current labour market conditions.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Source:  The Toronto Star, May 7, 2011,  Photo From:  worradmu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Making an Impression at a Group Interview

So they invited you for a group interview.  You might be wondering- Why would the employer hold group interviews?  What are they looking for?  How can you make an impression at a group interview?

 The most common reason to hold a group interview is to save time and money.  Group interviews allow employers to screen many candidates at a time and it gives them the opportunity to complete the application screening, and in-person screening all at once.  Another reason that employers could choose to hold group interviews is that they may want to evaluate your teamwork and leadership skills.  Group interviews allow them to see how you interact with your peers.

In many ways, group interviews are similar to individual interviews, but since your competition is sitting directly beside you, you need to perform even better.

At group interviews, pay special attention to:

1.  Your appearance

Since employers will have a limited opportunity to speak with you, your appearance must be impeccable.  Their assessment of you will largely be based on how you look.

2.  Preparation 

Be very prepared.  Bring everything that you need, be organized, and do your research.  Make sure that you impress the employer at every opportunity.

 3.  Confidence

Don’t be intimidated by the other candidates.  The employer invited you to the interview because they were impressed with your experience.  If you carry yourself with confidence, employers will perceive you as capable before you even start talking.

4.  Playing nice

Be respectful and professional to the other candidates.  If the employer is holding group interviews, they are likely looking to hire more than one employee.  Treat the other candidates like they are your future colleagues.  They might well be.

Always remember that your goal at the group interview is to get invited to an individual interview.  You will rarely get offered a job from a group interview, but if you don’t perform well, you could be screened out.

(Written by:  Karen Bivand,  Photo by: Ambro/Free photos.net)